‘Imperfect Harmonies’ Surges Ahead

Photo Courtesy of Serjical Strike/Reprise Records

Departing further from the well-known sounds from his band System of a Down, Serj Tankian’s “Imperfect Harmonies” is a personal adventure. The orchestral album has strong jazz and electronica elements, and is very experimental in nature.

“Imperfect Harmonies” sounds something like an amalgam of Tankian’s voice and the Trans-Siberian orchestra. The album relies heavily on strings and other orchestral instruments. It can get a bit repetitive at times and it’s not something too many listeners may be immediately fond of. But if you give it a few listens, you’ll uncover the catchy melodies and solid songwriting in the album.

The album opens with “Disowned, Inc.” The song starts strong with an upbeat, angry string and guitar-driven melody. Then, it quickly fades into a jazzy verse, with little electric sounds here and there. The song is an excellent demonstration of the varied music to come, and is immediately catchy.

“Borders Are…” begins with a piano and string intro that picks up with a fast beat and gradually builds up to an intense, fast-paced string driven climax fit for a car chase. As the song picks up, the instruments begin to meld together well and create a genuinely epic mood.

“Deserving?” begins with a somber acoustic guitar and string intro. The song eventually picks up pace, and the beat — combined with Tankian’s vocal melody and signature style — begins to make the song take on a Muse-like nature. Once more, the song has another catchy melody and is well-executed.

“Beatus” is a quirky electronic-based track. The first half of the song is mellow, with piano, guitar and recorder-based melodies. Though catchy, it’s a track that listeners may easily forget. But at the halfway mark, Middle Eastern-influenced string melodies suddenly jump in which eventually are followed by a few more moments of intense strings —   definitely the best parts of the song.

Following in the electronic vibe, “Reconstructive Demonstrations” combines the orchestra with electronic elements. The song is once more made up of catchy melodies, although the orchestral scale may get a bit repetitive. Luckily, change is soon to come.

“Electron” jumps into an upbeat verse, followed by a chorus of heavy guitar and Tankian’s distinctive vocals. The song is one of the most recognizable on the album because of the prominence of guitar, a welcome break in the orchestral dominance of the album. The orchestral parts are still very noticeable, but it’s refreshing to hear a guitar or two.

“Gate 21” begins with a mournful piano, soon accompanied by Tankian’s voice. The song gradually builds up to a climax of piano, strings and Tankian’s voice. This climax is an example of Tankian’s vocal style being an acquired taste for some. Though emotional and intense, “Gate 21” isn’t quite as powerful as the next song.

“Yes, It’s Genocide” begins with a similar somber piano heard in “Gate 21” that continues throughout the song. However, Tankian sings the song in Armenian. It is his personal message to help raise awareness of the Armenian genocide. The song’s mournful tone comes across strongly in no small part from the raw emotive vocals. Even if listeners don’t understand Armenian, Tankian’s message comes across clearly through the music.

“Peace Be Revenged” begins with a spoken voice section, quickly followed by traditional Tankian vocals. The song transitions into a quick epic orchestral score with Tankian’s voice over it. The song has some extremely catchy moments and is also particularly grand.

“Left of Center” is a guitar-heavy track. The verses have a Middle Eastern vibe, and the chorus has thick, heavy guitars in addition to the orchestra and Tankian going all out on the vocals. Due to the prominence of guitar and its raw energy, this song is another distinctive track, and is one of the best on the record. Even though it has Middle Eastern-influenced melodies, the song feels more conventional than most of the album with its use of guitars and seemingly simpler structure (compared to the rest of the album, that is), which makes it another refreshing break from the intense grandiosity of the record.

On the other hand, “Wings of Summer” is a softer song. It starts off with an acoustic guitar that goes through a sad, gloomy chord progression. The song continues in the same bleak fashion throughout, with the instruments and voices gradually building up. The song winds down with the vocals accompanied by an ominous piano — a fitting end to the album.

The songs on “Imperfect Harmonies” are well-performed and arranged, and the orchestra and other elements of the songs are all well-integrated. Each of the songs has catchy elements, except they’re presented in ways that the listener may not be used to. In addition, things can get a bit repetitive here and there. Multiple listens may be required to experience the album’s full effect, but discovering its purely catchy and raw elements is worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5